What to Expect, What to Watch For, & How to Recover Safely
When you leave the hospital, your family will need to bring extra pillows for you to sit on in the car. It will be most comfortable to sit in the front seat. Your physical therapist will show you how best to get in and out.
All of the tubes will be out. All that should remain is a bandage on your wound site. If you have been instructed to use an abduction wedge you will still need to use this at night when you are sleeping.
You’ll need to continue taking medications as prescribed by your doctor. You may be sent home with prescriptions for preventing blood clots, some of which require monitoring through blood draws two times per week. Make sure to take pain medication 30 minutes before exercises—it’s easier to prevent pain than to chase it later.
Your surgeon may recommend taking a multi-vitamin with iron daily for a month. You may also be advised to take 1-2 enteric-coated aspirin daily for 6 weeks and non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication for pain and swelling unless you are on blood thinners such as Coumadin or Lovenox. Check with your doctor about special precautions while on these bloodthinning medications.
After hip replacement, you will need to observe some important safety rules to help prevent dislocation. Here are some of the most frequently advised precautions. Review them with your surgeon and discuss how many months you will need to follow these, or any other safety rules prescribed after surgery:
- Don’t bend your hip past 90º
- Don’t cross your legs; keep knees 12-18 inches apart
- Don’t lean forward while sitting in a chair
- Don’t sit on a chair that does not have arms
- Don’t lean forward while sitting in bed
- Don’t sit more than 60 minutes at a time; get up and walk frequently
- Don’t sit on a toilet or commode that does not have handles or side arms
- Don’t let your knee move inward past your navel
- Don’t turn your feet in or out
- Do use pillows between your legs at night to keep your hips properly aligned
Ask your occupational therapist about special equipment to help you do routine things for yourself without placing your hip in danger of dislocation. These tools include:
- Dressing sticks – to help you put on and take off your pants or underwear
- Long shoe horns – to help you put on your shoes
- Elastic shoe laces – to make your laced shoes into slip-ons
- Grabber – to help you pick up things without bending over, reach items from high and low shelves, get clothes in an out of front loading washers and dryers, etc.
- Long-handled sponge – to help reach without stretching inappropriately
- Soap on a rope – to prevent bending to retrieve items in the shower
- Extender for woman’s razor – for shaving legs safely
- Raised commode seat – to put your knees in proper position below hips
- Bathtub benches and handrails – to improve bathroom safety
- Handheld shower – for washing while seated
- Long-handled feather duster – for dusting low and high items
- Long handled Johnny Mop – for cleaning out the tub or shower
- Never rest with a pillow under your knee – you may lose the ability to straighten your knee.
- Carefully follow instructions from your doctor about how much weight you can put on your operated leg:
- No weight bearing – no foot contact with ground
- Touch down weight bearing – touch foot to ground for balance only
- Partial weight bearing – usually one-fourth to one-half body weight
- Weight bearing as tolerated – as much as comfortable
- Don’t cross your operated leg over your non-operated leg
- Continue to use your walker or crutches after surgery as advised by your doctor or physical therapist
Keep your incision clean and dry and check it daily. Call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Fever over 100º
- Drainage from incision
- Redness around incision
- Increased swelling around incision
- Incision hot to touch
- Chest pain
- Chest congestion
- Problems with breathing
- Calf pain or swelling in your legs
Don’t shower or sit in a bathtub until your surgeon okays this activity.
Your staples or stitches will be removed about 10 to 14 days after surgery. Your incision will heal, and the swelling and bruising will get better over the next few weeks.
When you get home, keep up the exercise program you learned in the hospital.
You may see your physical therapist for several in-home treatments. This is to ensure you are safe in and about the home and getting in and out of a car. Your physical therapist will make recommendations about your safety, review your exercise program and continue working with you on range of motion for knees and hip precautions for avoiding dislocation.
Expect to regain strength and endurance as you begin to take on more of your normal daily routine. Home therapy visits should end when you can safely leave the house and outpatient physical therapy should begin.
The following pages provide some examples of common exercises that are usually recommended in a home exercise program. However, your orthopaedic surgeon and physical therapist will outline a specific plan that you should follow. You can refer to the following pages to assist you in performing your recommended exercises.